We Come with the Beautiful Things, was comprised of twelve raw, distinct visual narratives. Using black-and-white photography as a medium, each artist created a body of work that articulates and documents of their surroundings in a cleverly threaded patchwork of distinct themes. These young photographers’ themes range from issues rooted in race and sexual identity to abstract perspectives on the body.
Black males appear in knotted and entangled ropes—symbols of bondage and immobility—and a study of the fascination black women have with the conceptions of beauty. These images are disturbing in their depiction of issues that persistently and historically affect the black community. Several portrait series exude casual familiarity, revealing the complexities of teenage life and sexuality, or intimacy with close friends and family. Personal, thematic photographs portray the love one feels toward possessions and the anxiety at the inevitability of change. Each photograph is a curious amalgam of the traditional and the modern, giving the show a unique and captivating voice.
The coupling of James VanDerZee’s photographs with the work of these twelve students evoked dialogue, not only about photographic aesthetics, but also about social and political changes over the course of eighty years. VanDerZee’s photographs embody true documentation and the intentions of these young artists echo his.
Now in its ninth year, the program and exhibition continue to be dedicated to VanDerZee’s themes and the mission of the Studio Museum. This didactic program maintains its commitment to the rich community of Harlem, as well as education, which facilitates thought, conversation and action.
Expanding the Walls is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; Colgate-Palmolive; Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund; JPMorgan Chase Foundation; and Time Warner Inc.